Derek Jeter has been the subject of much debate in the offseason so far, ranging from his value as a fielder in the Gold Glove voting to his overall value as a player and icon to the New York Yankees.
Here's a debate that won't rage long with respect to Jeter: There can be no doubt that Derek Jeter is a no-brainer, first ballot Hall of Famer.
Now that the 2010 season, playoffs, postseason and award season are all in the books, we have everything we need to take an extended team-by-team look at today's players and their Hall of Fame potential.
It only follows that a team that can afford to sign the best players in the league and can always afford to re-sign its best players would feature a glut of future Hall of Famers.
For Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the Hall of Fame awaits. Barring any steroid revelations, Jeter will go in on the first ballot, while A-Rod may have to wait a year or two.
Mariano Rivera is clearly the greatest relief pitcher of all time, and may be one of the greatest pitchers of all time, period. If Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage are in the Hall of Fame, then Rivera should be a no-doubt first-balloter.
I think Jorge Posada tends to get lost in the shuffle when people think about current Yankees greats, but if he doesn't one day get into the Hall, I'd be a bit surprised.
And despite the steroid allegations, I think Andy Pettitte probably makes the Hall when all is said and done.
Other Yankees who are playing at a Hall of Fame-caliber level but need to do it for five-to-10 more years are Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and Robinson Cano. Lance Berkman needs at least three more years, and he doesn't appear to have them.
You think Boston Red Sox and Hall of Fame, and you think David Ortiz, don't you?
Ortiz hasn't done anything Cecil Fielder or Mo Vaughn didn't do, and he's done it as a pure DH whose name was on the 2003 steroid list.
The Red Sox are remarkably devoid of Hall of Fame resumes. If Dustin Pedroia or Jon Lester can do for 10 more years what they've done for the last three, we'll talk.
I hope you're sitting down: Carl Crawford could very easily make the Hall of Fame if he has 10 years left on his career. Keep in mind, he just finished his eighth full major league season, and he already has 200-plus doubles, 100-plus triples, 100-plus home runs, 400-plus stolen bases and 750-plus runs, and he is 20 hits shy of 1,500.
And, he just enjoyed his finest season at the age of 28.
If in eight more years he has 400 doubles, 150 triples, 800 stolen bases, 1,500 runs, and is approaching his 3,000 hits, at the age of 36, YOU keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
The Rays also have a couple of guys who could get into the conversation in 10 years, namely Evan Longoria and David Price.
But they'd have to keep up what they've done so far until 2020. Way too early to speculate on whether they can.
Vernon Wells is a center fielder, which means that if he can hit 400 home runs he is in the conversation.
Seeing as how he just hit 31 at the age of 31 to bring his career total up to 223, we have to mention him, but Wells is not a Hall of Fame-caliber player.
And that's all there is to say about the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Baltimore Orioles are a franchise that continues to keep Corey Patterson in Major League Baseball, which means there ain't a whole lot of Hall of Fame talent on this team.
I engineered this whole slide so that I could become the first person to ever use "Corey Patterson" and "Hall of Fame" in the same sentence.
It is understood, or at least it should be, that with any 1990s Hall of Fame candidate the analysis starts with "barring steroid allegations."
And in Jim Thome's case, this is a big caveat. Thome seems to me to be an obvious steroid suspect, but nothing has been proven, so we won't impugn his honor. Jim Thome is a no-doubt, absolute no-brainer first-ballot Hall of Famer.
If Joe Mauer continues to play the way he has through six full seasons, he probably only needs six or seven more years to clinch a spot in the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame for a first baseman is a big hurdle to clear, as there have been lots of great first basemen in history.
In that sense, Justin Morneau still has some work to do, and coming off a season in which he literally missed half the year because of concussion after-effects, he doesn't look like a HOFer to me.
Joe Nathan deserves a mention, as he is a Hall-caliber pitcher, but probably needs another whole decade given the way the Hall voters seem to treat modern closers.
The list of first baseman who are not in the Hall of Fame is an impressive one: Boog Powell, Gil Hodges, John Olerud, Mark Grace, Keith Hernandez and Fred McGriff are just a handful of guys who come to mind.
Having played in the era in which he has played, Paul Konerko will have to hit 500 home runs if he wants to be in the Hall of Fame, and even then he might not be in. Nevertheless, he is 34 years old and has 135 home runs to go.
That sounds surprisingly do-able, doesn't it?
I guess Manny Ramirez finished the season with the White Sox and thus has to be discussed here. Okay. By all rights, he should be a first-ballot guy. His various steroids busts mean he won't go in during his first go-round, and his wacky behavior means he may not go in the second time either. But Manny is a Hall of Famer, whenever he gets there, and one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time.
Mark Buehrle is an interesting guy from a Hall of Fame perspective. He is 31 years old and already has 148 wins. We no longer live in an era in which one has to win 300 games to clinch Hall of Fame status (and really, we never did), so who knows what Buehrle might be able to do.
At the same time, this is a guy who has struck out fewer than 100 batters in over 200 innings pitched twice in the last five years, so how much longer can this guy pitch?
If Omar Vizquel isn't in the Hall of Fame within five years of becoming eligible, everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.
If you think Andruw Jones isn't a Hall of Famer, you have a point, but I tend to think what he did for 10 years to establish himself as one of the greatest center fielders of all time should be not be undone simply on the basis of a premature decline.
Surprisingly, there are several players I'd like to discuss here.
Jason Kendall's reputation is such that some day, baseball fans of the future will look back and think that Kendall was a tremendous underrated catcher, and the Veterans Committee may usher him into the Hall.
Personally, I think Kendall has been an overrated catcher, a low-value hitter, a poor handler of pitchers, and a stolen base sieve. But when catchers start approaching 10,000 plate appearances, people start losing their minds.
Joakim Soria, Zack Greinke and Billy Butler are all good players.
When predicting whether a player will one day be in the Hall of Fame, there are two types of future Hall of Famers:
There are the Dale Murphy Hall of Famers, which are the guys who, if their career continues it's current trajectory, they will be in the Hall of Fame. This category is so named in honor of Murphy, who was headed for the Hall of Fame as late as 1987, before his career fell off a cliff in 1988 and ended before he could put the topper on his Hall of Fame resume.
Then there are the Sandy Koufax guys, guys who if they never played another game would be in the Hall of Fame, so-named in honor of Koufax, who retired out of the blue at the height of his career and was voted into the Hall.
On the one hand, Derek Jeter, Jim Thome and Mariano Rivera have all reached the Sandy Koufax point.
On the other hand, Miguel Cabrera has officially entered the Dale Murphy part of his career. If he can just finish out the normal trajectory of his career, he will be in the Hall of Fame.
Magglio Ordonez deserves a mention here, but he is not bound for the Hall of Fame any more than Frank Howard or Tony Oliva are.
Johnny Damon is an interesting player, because between you and me, he ain't a Hall of Fame-caliber player. But at the same time, he's won two World Series with two different teams, he's a 21st century baseball icon and, best of all, he's 429 hits from 3,000 at the age of 36.
You gonna keep Damon out of the Hall of Fame if he gets to 3,000 hits? Consider also that by the time he reaches 3,000 hits, he'll probably also have about 1,800 runs scored, and he becomes difficult to deny.
If Justin Verlander wins 17 games in 2011, he'll have 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts at the age of 28. Just sayin'.
Three years ago, this conversation would have involved Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia and, conspicuously, not Cliff Lee.
Now the only guys on this list worth discussing aren't Indians any more.
Now that he has played 10 seasons, Ichiro Suzuki will be in the Hall of Fame.
There are no Hall of Famers on this team. Billy Beane doesn't traffic in big-named players.
Of course, Billy Beane himself may one day be there.
Cliff Lee, obviously, is in the conversation. Where he goes next will be very important.
If Lee re-signs with the Rangers or goes to New York, which both play in pitching-adverse environments, he will have a tough time putting up Hall of Fame-caliber numbers.
And frankly, he emerged so late in his career, he may have a tough go of it anyway.
What if I told you that there was a major-league pitcher who won a Cy Young award two years ago, and this season won his 100th game and had his 1,000th strikeout? You'd think he was well on his way, right?
What if I told you that this pitcher was going into his 10th season and just turned 32 years old, and that he had a 3.85 career ERA?
I'm sure there are people who think Josh Hamilton is on his way to the Hall of Fame. At this point, he hasn't done anything Ryan Braun hasn't done.
We're obligated to discuss Mike Young here. He'd have to get to 3,000 hits to get any legitimate consideration.
Oh, and one more thing: Vlad Guerrero will be in the Hall of Fame.
If Torii Hunter wants to be in the Hall of Fame someday, he better start lobbying hard for the Veterans Committee to consider the candidacy of Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno or, for that matter, Tim Raines, all of whom were better players than Hunter.
If Bobby Abreu wants to be in the Hall of Fame someday, he better start having meaningful success in the postseason, because at this point he has the title of "Darling of the SABRmetric Community," and given the fact that the only time the Phillies, Yankees or Angels have missed the playoffs in the last five years, he was on their team, there is little to dispute the moniker.
If Hideki Matsui wants to be in the Hall of Fame someday, he better start carrying a copy of his stats from the Japanese leagues with him, because while he has been fabulous during his time in the U.S., his numbers here alone do not fit the bill.
The Philadelphia Phillies have four bona fide Hall of Fame-caliber players in four different stages of their careers.
Roy Halladay will almost certainly be in the Hall of Fame, assuming a natural trajectory for the rest of his career.
Roy Oswalt has had a Hall of Fame-caliber career to this point, but needs probably four or five more years, at this level of performance, to clinch it.
Chase Utley has all the tools and the talent to be considered one of the top five or 10 second basemen of all time, and to be in the Hall some day.
Ryan Howard has the talent to hit 500 home runs and could potentially establish himself as one of the greatest power-hitting run producers of all time, but he positively appears to be at a crossroads in his career. How much longer Howard is going to continue to produce at his current level remains to be seen.
Jimmy Rollins may make the Hall of Fame someday, but he is going to have to do it the hard way: He is going to have to reach tried-and-true Hall of Fame milestones to get there. He is probably only halfway through his career if this is what he's going to do, and at this point he appears to be slowing down more than speeding up.
As a power/speed hitter and Gold Glove-caliber center fielder, Carlos Beltran needs to separate himself from the aforementioned Jimmy Wynn/Cesar Cedeno/Tim Raines class of center fielders.
David Wright, at one point, looked like the next great third baseman. Nowadays, he looks like the next Howard Johnson.
I don't know what has happened to Johan Santana's ability to strike hitters out in recent years, but he is on track for a Hall of Fame career if he can last five or six more seasons at least.
Like Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes could one day be a Hall of Famer, but he'll have to do it the hard way: by crossing significant career milestones.
Albeit a terrible defensive shortstop, at the tender age of 26 years old, Hanley Ramirez would appear to have the skills to become of the top offensive shortstops ever.
And that's about it for the Florida Marlins, a team that does not hold on to players long enough to have them establish themselves as potential Hall of Famers.
Although no one outside of the Beltway knows it, Ryan Zimmerman is the elite third baseman in baseball today, and has all the skills on offense and defense to be a Hall of Fame third baseman. He just needs about 10 more years to get into the conversation.
It is not completely clear that Adam Dunn is a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame, but if this guy can hit 600 home runs (he's already up to 354 at the age of 30) in the post-steroid era, that would be hard to ignore.
Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper may one day Hall of Famers. Let's talk in 2030.
Ivan Rodriguez will be in the Hall of Fame.
It is so odd to talk about the Atlanta Braves and the Hall of Fame and only have one player to discuss. Just a few years ago, the Braves had Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones.
Now it's just Jones.
Well, Jones and Billy Wagner, perhaps the greatest left-handed reliever of all time, and one of the top five or six of all time. I'm just not sure people realize how amazing Wagner's career has been.
Of course, Brian McCann and Jason Heyward have Hall of Fame talent, but not nearly enough playing time. Which is also what I think of Troy Glaus as a potential Hall of Famer.
Incidentally, the infrequency with which Brian McCann's name comes up in the conversation of great contemporary catchers is appalling.
There was a time when I would have told you that Carlos Zambrano was a Hall of Fame sleeper. His meltdown in 2010 dampens that a bit, but there is still time to reclaim the effort.
He'll be 30 years old in 2011, and he has 116 wins, a 127 ERA+, and 1,441 strikeouts. In another 10 years, he could potentially be approaching 240 wins and 3,000 strikeouts.
Seems like a real long shot, though.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
No current Pittsburgh Pirate will ever be in the Hall of Fame.
If Albert Pujols got caught molesting young boys while killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend and smuggling cocaine into the country while writing a book about how he used steroids for years, he would still get elected into the Hall of Fame.
If Pujols got caught betting on baseball, they would probably change the rule about getting kicked out baseball for getting caught betting on baseball.
Yadier Molina could easily be a Hall of Famer, but that is going to be an end-of-the-career analysis. He's a once-in-a-generation catcher.
Matt Holliday is not a Hall of Fame-caliber talent.
Prince Fielder has as much chance of getting into the Hall of Fame as Cecil Fielder.
Ryan Braun is a very good hitter who will have to reach some career milestones to make the Hall.
Trevor Hoffman will be in the Hall of Fame.
Scott Rolen will be in the Hall of Fame.
Jim Edmonds is an interesting player. By all measures, he is a Hall of Famer for sure: eight Gold Gloves, 393 home runs, 1,199 RBI and 1,251 runs scored.
If Edmonds has seven more home runs in him, how do you keep a center fielder with 400 home runs who is generally regarded as one of the greatest defensive players of his day out of the Hall of Fame?
Joey Votto would certainly seem to be a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter. Give him 10 more years and we'll talk.
This is a mediocre-to-solid cast of players, none of whom really has a chance to make the Hall of Fame.
Though, think about this:
Clayton Kershaw is 22 years old and still figuring out how to pitch in the major leagues. At the age of 21 and again at the age of 22, Kershaw has struck out over a batter per inning, and he already has 26 wins.
Next year, at the age of 23, he will get his 500th strikeout, likely in his first start, and he has a shot at finishing the season with 40 wins.
At this age, with what he's accomplished, the sky would seem to be the limit.
Of course, that's what we said about Dwight Gooden.
Already one of the elite hitters in baseball, if he can stay healthy, continue to develop, and eventually go to a team that doesn't play its home games at Petco Park, Adrian Gonzalez will be in the Hall of Fame.
I'd like to leave it at that, but it is my duty to disclose the Hall of Fame potential of Miguel Tejada. At this point, I think Edgar Renteria has a better chance of making the Hall, and frankly he may deserve it more.
Tejada has mind-boggling statistics for a shortstop, having just hit his 300th home run, he also has 1,256 RBI and 1,187 runs scored.
His stats are almost undeniable, but considering his era, age scandal and steroid allegations, it isn't hard to imagine Tejada not getting in.
Barring the continued development of Justin Upton or a startling re-emergence of Brandon Webb, there's nothing doing here.
Is Todd Helton a Hall of Famer? That depends on whether you take his career numbers at face value or whether you take his home/road splits at face value.
Whether you deduct for his Coors Field inflation or not, Helton has always looked, to me, like John Olerud in a hitter's park, and we can all agree that Olerud was not a Hall of Famer.
Troy Tulowitski is an amazing defensive shortstop who has the good fortune of hitting in Coors Field.
It is hard to see Jason Giambi going into Cooperstown after all he's been through, and considering what we know about the era he played in and the things he put into his body.
Ubaldo Jimenez seems to be a fine pitcher. I hope he leaves Colorado someday.
For a mediocre offensive and defensive player, Edgar Renteria sure does seem to be cementing his place in baseball history, doesn't he?
Pat Burrell is a no.
Tim Lincecum is one of the brightest young pitching talents we've ever seen. He has the talent to get into the Hall of Fame. He just needs to keep it up (and as we've seen, his velocity is already on the decline).
Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Cain all look like tremendous talents, and are sure to be mainstays for years to come. But let's not go putting them in the Hall of Fame conversation just yet.
Just think, maybe in 15 years, we'll look back on this team the way we do the 1996 Yankees, and we'll all agree that the core of this team is headed to the Hall of Fame, the way we do with the Yankees today.